Zen and the Art of Vampires

Chapter 1
"Experience the romance of Iceland under the starry summer night sky with a descendant of the Vikings of yore; that's what the brochure said."

Eyes a startling shade of unadulterated grey considered me seriously.

"Thus far, my starry summer nights have been trying to figure out why my hair-dryer adapter keeps blowing out the hotel lights. I don't suppose you are free tonight for a little stargazing?"

The grey eyes didn't blink, just continued to watch me cautiously, as if their owner expected me to suddenly leap onto the tiny round metal and glass table at which we sat, and start dancing the cancan. "Stargazing?"

"Yes, it means looking at the stars. Speaking of which, your English is remarkably good. But I assume your lack of enthusiasm means you'd rather pass on the idea." I sighed. "I kind of thought so. It's par for the course, you know. Well, par for my course. A couple of ladies on the tour have done well for themselves thus far."

Three women danced by in progression. The first two were strangers, but the third one, Magda, was a decidedly plump, buxom lady of Spanish descent who had snapping black eyes and a wicked sense of humor.

"Pia, you're not dancing?" Magda called as her partner, Raymond, whirled her around to vaguely Germanic music, complete with accordion. It was the middle of June, and all of Iceland was celebrating their Independence Day with much abandon, even the tourists. Small booths of crafts and food vendors lined the square, filling the air with an intriguing mixture of smells that ranged from floral (a dried-lavender seller) to mouthwatering (a Mediterranean gyro stand). At the far end of the square a stage had been set up, and various bands ranging from country (who knew Iceland had country music?) to easy listening had played all day. I gathered that the more raucous bands were to grace the evening's stage.

"Not this time, no," I called back.

"You should!" she yelled, her deep, throaty voice carrying surprisingly well over the noise of the music and people. "The music is divine!"

I thought about pointing out the obvious, that thus far in the trip, no blond, blue-eyed descendant of Vikings had asked me to join the throng, but a small morsel of pride kept me from bellowing that out to Magda.

My tablemate swigged down the last of his beverage and belched, politely excusing himself.

I eyed him doubtfully for a moment, before deciding beggars couldn't be choosers. "Would it be forward of me if I asked you if you would care to dance?"

He looked thoughtful for a moment, then nodded and stood up. "Dance is good."

I was a bit surprised at his easy acquiescence, but determined to enjoy myself no matter what, I took his hand and wound my way through the crowds perched at café tables to the part of the square where the dancing was taking place.

"Do you two-step?" I asked my partner politely.

He glanced down at my shoes. "Two feet."

"Yes. It's a dance. I assume you don't know it?"

"No." He shook his head. "I like dance."

With careful deliberation, he put his faded-sandal-clad feet directly on top of my sturdy, if somewhat scruffy, leather walking shoes, and looked up with expectation.

"It's a good thing you're as small as you are, and I'm as big as I am," I told the boy, taking his hands and moving in gentle, vaguely dancelike motions that would keep him from being dislodged. "How old are you, exactly?"

The boy scrunched up his face for a moment as he sorted out the proper word. "Four."

"Really? Then your English is even more remarkable than I